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Underdog Betting – How to Perfect Your Underdog Betting Strategy

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What does every betting market in the world have in common?

They all have a favorite and an underdog.

Underdog betting can be one of the most profitable ways to make money from online betting. Knowing how and when to pick the play that, on paper at least, shouldn’t win, is a skill and we’re going to teach you how best to use this skill.

Throughout this article, we will look at how underdog betting works, along with underdog betting strategy and which sportsbooks are best for underdog markets.

Best Underdog Betting Sites

Below is a list of what we think is the best underdog betting sites right now. The list is based on sites that we’ve tested and then deemed to have qualities that sync with underdog sports betting.

Later in the article, we’ve taken the best betting sites and created mini-reviews to highlight why each of them ranks where they do.

What is Underdog Betting

Underdog betting is where you’re betting on a selection within a market that is not the favorite. There are lots of ways that you can class an “underdog”, but we think that as long as it’s not the shortest price on that market then it’s not expected to win.

If you’re new to sports betting, then you may be wondering why you would ever bet on anything other than the pick that is most likely to win. The answer is simply that, sport is highly unpredictable and betting odds are reflective of long-term head to heads as much as they are short-term.

For example, let’s take an NBA game between the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs.

We’ve two prices on the moneyline bet from Bovada which is the Suns at -220 and the Spurs at +180. The odds would suggest that the Suns are the favorites, and the Spurs are the underdogs.

The implied probability of each team winning would be:

  • Suns = 68.8%
  • Spurs = 35.7%

Please note that this creates an overround of 104.5%, which means that the juice charged by the sportsbook for this bet is 4.5%. You don’t need to worry too much about this for underdog betting, but we wanted to highlight just in case you were wondering why it was more than 100%.

Bovada are suggesting that 68.8% of the time the Suns win and 35.7% of the time the Spurs win. Whilst the Suns are favorites, there is no guarantee that they will win, meaning that the underdog bet is very much in play.

What Does “Underdog” Mean?

The term underdog dates to the late 19th Century and was a phrase linked to dogfighting. When two dogs were put head-to-head the winner was referred to as “top dog” and the loser the “underdog”.

Over the years there have been many stories that included an underdog winning, such as David and Goliath and Robin Hood and King Arthur. The moral of each story is following someone who should, by all accounts, lose their fight. However, they go on to defy the odds and win.

The underdog bet is one that many sports bettors like to track. The chance to get one over on the bigger, better team is highly satisfying and one of the main reasons why these bets are so popular with so many sports.

How to Bet the Underdog

There are two ways to define an underdog bet. One is to assume that any selection within that market that is not the favorite is the underdog. The second is to assume that the longest odds in the market can be the only underdog.

This may sound like the same thing, but they do differ, and we are going to look at how you bet on both.

First up, let’s look at how you bet on an underdog that is not the favorite. It’s incredibly easy to do and all you’re looking for is the bet that is not the shortest odds in that market.

In the image above we’ve included two NFL games. One between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, and the other between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys.

We need to look at the moneyline market for this or in the case of Bovada, the “win” market. In the first game, the Bears are priced at -175 and the Lions at +150. The Lions are a longer price, so this makes them our underdog bet.

In the second game, the Raiders are priced at +260 and the Cowboys at -320. The Raiders are the longer odds for this game, which makes the underdog,

 

To place the bet, you need to click on the odds for each bet. This will add them to your bet slip where you can choose your stake. For this example, we’ve added both picks to our bet slip and placed a $10 bet on each. The bet slip then shows you the amount you will win (profit) from each bet.

Now let’s switch it up to a market where there are more than two picks. For this, we’ve moved across the NBA and are looking at the overall winner for the Atlantic Division.

As you can see, there are now five teams to choose from. The Brooklyn Nets are the number one pick, priced at -450. They are unequivocally the favorite to take the division.

There is no right or wrong answer for who is the underdog here, as long as it’s not the Nets. Some might say that because the Raptors are the longest price at +6000, this would be the obvious pick. However, based on the underdog simply not being any pick other than the favorite, we are happy to take any team that is not the Nets.

Placing a bet works in the same way in that, you need to click the odds for your pick to add it to the bet slip.

As you can see, we’ve taken the Raptors at +6000 and placed a $10 bet. Our bet slip shows the stake and the “Win” (profit).

Reading Underdog Betting Odds

Betting odds in the US are represented as a positive or a negative number. The positive number shows how much you win per $100 staked. The negative shows how much you need to stake to make a $100 profit.

The example above shows a game between Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons. Let’s concentrate on the “win” bet, which is essentially just the moneyline and is the market for the outright winner and no handicaps applied.

Miami is priced at -460 to win. This means that you would need to stake $460 to make a $100 profit.

Detroit is priced at +340. This means that you would make a $340 profit for every $100 you staked.

Highlighting which bet is the underdog is as simple as seeing which is the positive number and which is negative. In these scenarios, the negative is always the favorite and the positive is always the underdog.

When you’re betting on markets that have just two possible outcomes, there will never be a case where you have two sets of odds that are positive. So, you wouldn’t have two bets that were +150 for example.

There will be times where you have games that are both negative odds.

The example above is an NFL game between the LA Rams and the Green Bay Packers. As you can see, odds for this are both negative, with the Rams priced at -105 and the Packers at -115.

When this occurs the odds with the highest number is the underdog. So, given that -105 is higher than -115, it would mean that the Rams are underdogs for this game. The game is very close. Here are the implied probabilities from these odds.

  • Green Bay Packers implied probability to win = 53.5%
  • LA Rams implied probability to win = 51.2%

Payouts for different bets can differ from underdog sports betting. In the next section, we’re going to look at a couple of examples of this and how they might work in the real world.

Spread Bet Underdogs

The spread is referred to as the points handicap that is applied to one or both teams. It’s a bet that has been designed to create an even playing field by either adding or subtracting points from the final score to create the spread. In markets outside of the US, this is often known as handicap betting

You’re going to find that with each game, the spread differs. This is based on how much better the handicapper (betting site) thinks one team is over the other.

There are going to be spreads applied to each game. A positive, where points get added on and a negative where points get removed.

The underdog in the game will have points added on. This is because they aren’t as good as the opposition, so the points level the playing field. The favorite will have points removed.

As a bettor, you then choose if you want to take the underdog bet with points added on or the favorite with points removed.

The idea of this market is to create two bets that are the same in terms of underdog betting odds or at least, very close to being the same. Odds will hover around the -110 mark for most games but can fluctuate to as much as -120 to even money.

In the table above you can see we’ve included three up-and-coming NFL games. You can also see that the spreads for each are very different. The Bears v Lions game is +/- 3.5, Raiders v Cowboys +/- 7.0 and the Bills v Saints is +/-4.5.

What you will find is that the lower the spread, the tighter the game.

In terms of picking the underdog for these bets, you have two options. The first is to simply assume the team that has points added is the underdog. The second is to choose the team with the lowest odds for the spread as the underdog.

The problem with the second option is that most bets are priced the same for the spread. If there is a difference, it’s minimal, which is the whole point.

To take advantage of the spread for underdog betting, you need to be a good handclapper. This involves deciding if the line set by the bookmaker is fair and then if not, choosing the team that offers the better value.

Let’s take that Raiders v Cowboys game and see if we can find some which bet is the underdog for the spread.

For this, we need to look at points scored for both teams. Dallas is one of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL and as you can see, averages 36 points at home. The Raiders are middle of the road but average just 22.5 points away from home.

This is a 13.5 point differential between the two teams. Just from this stat alone, we can see that backing the Cowboys at -7 is going to be a better option.

To back that up again, all games that Dallas has won at home have been by scores of 8 or more points.

Moneyline Bet Underdogs

The moneyline bet is a little more straightforward in that, the underdog is literally the team that is the highest price of the two. You’re going to find that almost all games will have odds set at a positive and negative for a two-result betting market.

Let’s just across to the NHL to look a little more at how moneyline underdog betting works.

We’ve got three games here and each is typical of what you would see from moneyline bets and who might be the underdog.

The top game sees the Flyers priced at +140 and the Lightning at -165. This makes the Lightening favorite and the Flyers the underdog due to them being a higher price.

The bottom game sees the Blackhawks priced at +180 and the Flames at -220. This makes the Blackhawks the underdog as they are the higher price.

The middle game between the Oilers and Stars is interesting as you’ve got the same price for both teams. When you get this, it means that the bookmakers think there is nothing between, so technically there is no underdog for this game based on the moneyline.

Underdogs Sports Betting

There are underdog betting opportunities for all sports. Some are clearer cut than others, but each has its own merits and possibilities. Below we’re going to run through the major US sports and highlight a few examples in each of where underdog bets are possible.

Betting Underdogs NFL

The NFL is one of the best places to bet on the underdog. There are 32 teams that start each season and the difference between the top and the bottom is massive.

However, one thing that keeps the NFL relevant is the fact that the draft picks for the best college players are evenly spread between teams that are struggling to keep them competitive. This means that it’s possible to find some great underdog odds for teams that have improved significantly through good recruiting in the offseason.

There are two key markets that you want to target for underdog sports betting in the NFL. The first is the singles market that we’ve mentioned previously but will re-highlight now.

The image above shows a game between the New York Jets and the Houston Texans. The moneyline bet is priced at +130 for the Jets and -150 for the Texans. This shows us that the Texans are favorites, and the Jets are underdogs.

What this game show is a typical NFL example of the difference between the odds for two single moneyline bets.

Another incredibly popular underdog bet comes from the futures market. There are no bigger futures bets than that of the Super Bowl and we wanted to look at underdog betting for this.

Who is the underdog in the Super Bowl? Well, in the image above we have the betting markets for all 32 teams to win Super Bowl 56. The favorite for the win is Tampa Bay priced at +600. Technically, this makes all other pick an underdog bet. You could argue that Kansas City Chiefs at +650 are joint favorites, but you get where we’re coming from.

We now move into the realms of how big an underdog bet you want to make. For example, there would be a huge difference between picking a team like the LA Rams at +800 and the Houston Texans at +500000.

Other underdog markets on the NFL can include divisional bets, conference winners, team total wins, MVPs, and playoff winners.

NBA Underdogs Betting

The NBA is one of the best leagues to bet on underdog markets. The main reason for this is the sheer volume of games that are played, with each team playing 82 regular-season games, plus another potential 28 games for the overall winner when you include the playoffs.

It’s common for teams to go on streaks of winning or losing throughout the season, but even the most dominant teams are untouchable when it comes to underdog betting strategy.

The singles market is the most common underdog bet and it’s here where you find a lot of extreme matchups given the quality between the top and bottom teams.

In the image above you can see that Miami Heat are huge favorites against the Detroit Pistons, priced at -520 and +375 respectively. Backing the Pistons at +375 would be a huge underdog bet and a common one for NBA betting.

The NBA also offers options to back underdog bets from futures markets such as NBA Championship, divisional and regional winners.

MLB Underdog Betting System

If we had to pick a single sport for underdog betting it would probably be baseball and more specifically, the MLB. In the MLB each team will play a minimum of 162 games throughout the course of the season.

Given the sheer volume of games to bet on, means that underdog sports betting is way more common than almost all other sports. It’s also a much more competitive league.

To put this into some context, in 2021 the best team in the regular season was the Tampa Bay Rays, who had a 61.7% win rate. This means that they lost 62 games of their 162 total, which is a lot considering they are the best.

The image above highlights a random game week from the 2021 MLB season. You can see the average odds (taken from dozens of betting sites) for each team and then the winner has their odds highlighted in green.

What is most notable here is that just 4 of 10 games saw the favorite win, with 6 underdog bets coming in. This isn’t a one-off either and is quite common throughout the league.

Like most US-based sports, it’s not just single bets that you can place for underdog bets. Season-long bets like World Series winner and divisional winners will yield similar markets, often with odds are that much more inflated.

NHL Underdog Betting

NHL underdog betting works a little different from the others in that, the accumulation of points is not the same. You get 2 points for a win, then 1 point for any game that goes into overtime.

Depending on the betting site will depend on the market you can bet on. For example, some betting sites play three markets, which include regular time home win, away win or draw (tie). Other betting sites will have it so it’s just a home or away wins, with the result in overtime contributing to that result.

For underdog betting on the NHL, you’re still looking at bets that are longer priced than the favorite.

We’re currently out of season for NHL betting as we write this, so the image above shows betting odds for a random league game between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche.

You can see that the Blues are priced at +199 on average and the Avalanche at -241. Given that the Blues are the higher price of the two, this would then be the underdog for this bet.

Top Underdog Betting Sites Reviewed

Below we’ve included a range of what we think are the best betting sites for underdog betting.

1 – Bovada – Best Overall Betting Site for Underdog Betting

Bovada takes the top spot for underdog betting. They have the lowest overround of any of the offshore betting sites that we’ve tested coming in at just 9.75%. This means that they charge less for markets, which is a good thing for us players.

The sportsbook also has one of the best range of markets for underdog betting. They cover the NFL, NBA, and MLB better than just about any other betting site, with a great range of futures that are attached to each sport.

Bovada is the only sportsbook to have a dedicated betting underdog betting app. You can download this via the App Store or the Google Play Store.

New accounts can get a welcome bonus worth up to $1,000. The bonus has a 15x wagering attached to clear the bonus and it will expire in 15 days. You can read more about claiming the Bovada Bonus Code here.

Pros

  • Lowest overround/juice charged at just 9.75%
  • Good value markets for underdog betting
  • Huge range of futures markets which are some of the most popular for underdog bets
  • Stunning design for both online and mobile betting app

Cons

  • Limited range of deposit options

2 – BetOnline – Betting Site with High Odds on Underdog Bets

A great alternative to Bovada is BetOnline, which is widely regarded as one of the biggest sports betting sites in the United States.

BetOnline is unique in that it has a huge number of professional gamblers who use the platform. This means that a lot of their favorite pricing is shorter than the competition, which means that underdog pricing is boosted to balance things out. If you are looking for the best possible underdog prices, few are better than BetOnline.

The site also comes with competitive margins of just 12.2% from the markets that we have tested. Even though this is less than Bovada, it’s still way better than over 95% of betting sites in the US.

Coverage for an underdog betting system is great and their range of futures bets is about as big as you will find. Banking options include Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, with deposits starting from as little as $10. Betting limits, even on underdog bets, max out at $10,000 with some sports.

New accounts to BetOnline allow you to get a welcome bonus worth up to $1,000. The bonus comes with a wagering requirement of 10x of the total bonus claimed with is a 50% match of your opening deposit.

Pros

  • Short “favorite” odds mean inflated underdog odds
  • Great range of futures betting markets to use
  • High welcome bonus on offer worth up to $1,000

Cons

  • Not the best-looking betting site that we’ve tested

3 – BetUS – Best Betting Site for Underdogs Live Streaming

BetUS is, without doubt, one of the biggest sportsbooks in the US, and with it comes an incredible coverage of both sports and markets. For underdog betting, it has an average overround of 14.5%, which is very good for these types of bets.

The site covers the likes of NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL really well, but it’s the coverage of soccer, tennis, and horse racing, three great alternative sports to the “norm” that makes it a standout betting site. Underdog betting options are available on each and make for a nice change of pace to what you usually get from most betting sites.

BetUS is the only site on our list that run their own live streaming channel. On it includes tips and previews, with most episodes dedicating sections to underdog bets if you’re looking for inspiration.

The welcome bonus at BetUS is about as big as you will find and for the sports betting section, you can claim up to $2,500. The bonus is a 50% match of your opening deposit and needs to be wagered 15x before you can withdraw.

Pros

  • Best for “other sports” such as tennis, horse racing, and soccer betting
  • Low margins make for competitive odds throughout the site
  • Live streaming channel ideal for underdog betting ideas

Cons

  • Can be limited in terms of futures bets on offer

4 – MyBookie – Best for College Underdog Betting

MyBookie is one of the most popular betting sites in the US and this is mainly to do with the plethora of promotions it offers. It includes a sign-up bonus but also has offers for existing players, as well as contests that run on a weekly basis.

The overround mark up of around 20% is much higher than we would like to see. This means that betting with MyBookie exclusively is going to get expensive. However, using them for one of the bets will pay dividends as we often found them to be the standout price for a lot of underdog bets such as the Super Bowl winner and the NBA Championships.

Sports coverage is good, especially for college games where the coverage is up there with either of the three betting sites above.

New accounts to MyBookie will get access to a massive welcome bonus worth up to $1,000 that comes with just a 10x rollover attached as well, making it incredibly lucrative.

Pros

  • Great for college underdog sports betting
  • High overround can lead to high random underdog bets in multiple-pick markets
  • Low wagering of just 10x on the welcome bonus

Cons

  • High overround can also mean that odds consistency in terms of best price, is lacking

Is it Worth Betting on the Underdog?

The short answer to this question is unequivocal, yes. Betting on the underdog can be one of the most lucrative bets that you can place with any sportsbook.

It does, however, have its downsides though and with that you need to be prepared to work a little harder to see long-term profits. Below we’ve included some pros and cons to betting on the underdog.

Pros for Betting on the Underdog

  • Large Payout – When you bet on the underdog, you’re taking the largest possible payout from that market. The odds are higher than the favorite so you maximize the amount of money that you can win.
  • Single Wins Cover Multiple Small Wins – A single underdog win can cover multiple wins on the favorite. For example, if you manage to pull off a single +500 win this returns $500 profit for a $100 stake. You would need to place 8 bets at odds of -150 to make the same return and this assumes that you win all 8 in a row.
  • Easier to Find Value Bets – The longer the odds, the bigger the difference between the price within betting sites. By doing a little line shopping you generally find that you can get a wider range of odds for underdog betting than you would for the favorite.

Cons for Betting on the Underdog

  • Less Chance of Winning – Underdogs are priced longer than the favorite for a reason. They are less likely to win, which means you’re taking a risk on losing more bets than you win.

Favorite vs Underdog Betting

Regardless of if you’re betting on the favorite or the underdog, in betting all we are looking to do is find value. We aren’t saying that one is better than the other here. If the value lies with the favorite, then back them.

However, you will make more money with an underdog betting system in a shorter period simply because the odds are higher. If you can find the value from the underdog bet, then you’re going to take this every time.

What you’re looking for are situations where the underdog has a chance of winning. If you’re backing teams like the Magic to win the NBA Championships at odds of +500000, then this is wasting money as it’s just not going to happen based on their record and stats.

If we were looking at someone like the Miami Heat who are priced at +1200 and running at 11-6 after 17 games, then this would be a much better underdog bet as they still have a legitimate chance of winning.

One of the easiest ways to find the value is to use stats. US-based sports love stats and online there is tons of data freely available that you need to use to find these underdog picks.

To run an example of how you could find these bets, we want to date back to the 2015/16 NBA season where the Golden State Warriors went on a record-breaking 73 wins and 9 losses. This is the best regular-season record ever in the NBA and they still lost over 11% of their games.

On February 20th, 2016, the Warriors played away to the Portland Trail Blazers. GSW was on an 11-game winning streak at the time and were huge favorites with the bookies priced at just -390 to make it 12 wins in a row. Portland was priced at +316.

Without any data and only context that GSW was on an incredible run with an amazing team, the odds would appear to be fair. But let’s look at some numbers that might have suggested otherwise.

Golden State averaged 115.9 points away from home, which was the most that season.

Portland averaged 106.5 points at home, which at the time was the 6th highest home points per game. Whilst a decent difference between the two, it wasn’t all that shocking and to suggest an implied probability win rate out almost 80% for GSW, would seem a little off the mark.

But the key stat here for both teams is the last 3 game average. GSW was under their season-long average at 113.3 and Portland was flying at a massive 121.7, the highest in the league by over 8 points.

The numbers suggested that Portland was playing great and GSW were a little below par, even though still a very good team. Now, GSW was undoubtedly still the favorite here, but to suggest that they won this game, based on these numbers alone, 80% of the time, was way off the mark.

Portland went on to win this game 137 to 105. It turned out to be the biggest margin of defeat for Golden State that season. Whilst the odds suggested that the Golden State were huge favorites, the numbers suggested that the value lay firmly with the underdog, Portland.

This is a classic example of how underdog betting can be highly profitable even when going against one of the greatest sporting teams of all time.

Underdog Betting – Conclusion

There is no doubt that underdog betting has its place. You should never be put off a bet simply because of its price and it’s not always the case that a sportsbook has priced up the odds for a market correctly.

Underdog betting allows you to take long odds and win more money as a result. Make sure you use all the tools possible to find when the longer price offers more value than the favorite and then simply back your research for the bet.

Underdog Betting FAQs

Is the underdog plus or minus?

What is it called when an underdog wins?

Do most people bet on the underdog or favorite?

What is a +200 underdog?

Who is the Underdog in Betting?

Jonathan has been working within the iGaming sector since 2007. After graduating with a BA Hons in Marketing from Northumbria University, he's been able to set up his own online content business, working with some of the biggest brands in the iGaming sector. Outside of work he enjoys any type of sports, especially cricket, golf, football and darts.